In Judges 19, we are introduced to three characters:
- A Levite who dwells in the mountains of Ephraim
- Benjamite men from the city of Gibeah
- A woman from Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah
After reading Judges 19 through 21, one might conclude that God hates women, and that God is pretty upset with the behavior of all of these characters, and would say something like, "that's it. You guys are all corrupt. There is no way that I'm going to bless you!"
But the Bible doesn't end in Judges 21. When you turn the page, there is a story about Ruth and Naomi. After the horrific treatment of the woman from Bethlehem, and of the women of Jabesh Gilead and Shiloh that we read in Judges 19-21, we see a 4-chapter story of God's tender treatment of disadvantaged women in Bethlehem. God had a plan for taking these women under His wing to protect them.
Furthermore, if you take a look at the next book, 1 Samuel, you'll see a story of how God sought to redeem the main characters from the end of Judges. The book of 1 Samuel introduces three main characters:
- Samuel, a Levite (Psalm 99:6, 1 Chronicles 6:25-28) who dwells in the mountains of Ephraim (1 Samuel 1:1)
- Saul, a Benjamite (1 Samuel 9:21) from the city of Gibeah (1 Samuel 11:4, 15:34, Isaiah 10:29)
- David, from the tribe of Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah (1 Samuel 16:1)
God does not give up on the priestly role of the Levites in Ephraim. He raises up a new priest named Samuel that becomes one of the most famous priests in the Old Testament.
God does not give up on the men of Gibeah. In fact, the very first king of Israel, Saul, is selected from the descendants of Gibeah (which is quite surprising, since just a few chapters ago, the Gibeahites were rebelling against God's law, and fighting a war against the rest of the children of Israel; it seems like this would be the last group of people that one would choose a king for Israel from). Nevertheless, Saul is able to unite Israel against foreign enemies, he comes to the rescue of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead that were treated so poorly by the Israelites in Judges 21, and many other things.
And God does not give up on the people of Bethlehem. In Judges 19:1, we are told that the woman of Bethlehem "played the whore" against her husband, and that there may have been some sexual immorality going on. It's interesting to note that David writes that "he was conceived in sin" (Psalm 51:5), suggesting that his parents were committing adultery when he was conceived (which may be further supported by the fact that when Samuel went to anoint David king in 1 Samuel 16:10, Jesse initially did not present David as one of his sons). Nevertheless, David was favored by God, and was anointed king of Israel. However, David did not become king of Israel until after he had been mistreated and nearly killed many times by Saul.
Ultimately, we learn that God had enough of Saul. And Saul dies in the battlefield, like many of his ancestors died in Judges ch. 20. But does this mean that God ultimately gave up on the children of Benjamin? Absolutely not.
If we look at the New Testament, we remember that Jesus, the son of David was persecuted by the Jews, including Saul (Acts 9:4) the Benjamite, Acts 13:21; Philippians 3:5. Nevertheless, God sent Saul of Tarsus to the city where Ananias lived (much like God sent Saul of Gibeah to the city where Samuel lived). And unlike Saul of Gibeah, Saul of Tarsus was faithful to his commission all the way to his death in Rome.
In summary, although a reading of Judges 19-21 may suggest that we do things that are irredeemably wicked, God has a large master plan for each and every one of us. And although there are periods in each of our lives where we feel that we have gone too far, God has a story of redemption planned for each one of us. Each of the characters in Judges 19 were given a second chance in the book of 1 Samuel. And even the character of Saul who failed so miserably in the book of 1 Samuel, was given a third chance in the New Testament, where Saul of Tarsus went on to write many of the books of the Bible and spread the gospel all around the Mediterranean. So don't let your past failures get you all turned upside down about what you think God can use you to do. God has big plans for you, and is ready for you to take up the second, third, or fiftieth chance.